The evening news has become annoying.
Each night this week the bulletins have included the fortunes of the England women’s football team among the headlines. This evening no superlatives were spared in describing the victory of the women’s team over the Swedish women’s team. To listen to the vocabulary used one might have imagined that the game was a watershed in the history of art or science. ‘Gravity-defying’ was the term used to describe the scoring of one goal.
‘Nine million viewers,’ said the presenter. Well, yes. It was at peak viewing time on the BBC, is that a great deal different than it would be for any programme that had been hyped for days.
Were I a woman, I would have been embarrassed at the ridiculous boosterism of the television reporters. I grew up in a community where there was no need for people to seek equality, it was assumed. Women in that community would have felt no need for anyone to talk them up.
Farm life demanded the efforts of all who could participate. My grandmother owned her own fields and had her own income. A diminutive figure of four feet ten inches, she was mother to seven, grandmother to twenty, and a woman with an extraordinary capacity for work.
Men assumed an equality without it needing to be discussed. Children would be as likely seen perched on the footplates of tractors or sat smiling on open trailers as being pushed in prams (of course, once a child reached twelve or thirteen years of age, they might be found driving the tractors themselves).
The working equality of farms meant boundless opportunities to be outside, and to wonder at the misfortune of those who had to endure life in towns and cities.
Perhaps it was the nature of country life that led to an assumption that all people were equal. Equestrian sports arose from country life. Show jumping, dressage, cross-country had their roots in hunting, and woe betide anyone who might suggest a woman coukldn’t ride to hounds. It is some fifty years since Princess Anne rode in the Great Britain equestrian team in the Olympic Games.
When Margaret Thatcher became Conservative leader in 1975, no-one in our community thought it odd. Mrs Thatcher would have made a formidable figure riding a fifteen hands hunter.
Perhaps the notable story behind the football competition is that they have taken five decades to reach a point that women on horses passed almost unnoticed.